2022 Toyota GR 86 First Ride Review: Still Pure, Still Fun

The original Toyota 86 nailed the formula for delivering fun at a relatively inexpensive price. Its rear-drive architecture, rev-happy engine, six-speed manual, and 2+2 practicality made it a favorite among enthusiasts, and it dependably delivered a great time on a back road or at the track.

Once again twinned with the Subaru BRZ, the second-gen 86 is around the corner, with new GR nomenclature—it stands for “Gazoo Racing,” Toyota’s in-house speed shop—more power, and a revised chassis. We just hopped out of the passenger seat beside professional drifter Ken Gushi, who discussed the improvements made to the coupe while we lapped Eagles Canyon Raceway outside of Dallas, Texas.

The first thing Gushi says he noticed—and we did, too—is the more pronounced exhaust note, which is louder without being too intrusive. It lacks the crackles and pops of the GR Supra with its inline-six engine, but the richer sound nevertheless amplifies the 86 experience.

Sadly, because we were riding shotgun, it was hard for us to tell if the GR 86 is faster than the outgoing model. As in its BRZ sibling, the 2022 GR 86’s 2.4-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder makes 228 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, increases of 23 horses and 28 lb-ft over the old 86’s output. Our ride was in an 86 equipped with the standard six-speed manual transmission, which Toyota estimates will run from zero to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds. We expect to be even quicker when we test the new car, but for reference, the previous 86’s weaker 2.0-liter engine powered it to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds the last time we had one at our test track.

Maximum torque isn’t delivered until a relatively lofty—at least as far as today’s turbocharged engines are concerned—3,700 rpm, but the 86 still felt quick enough off the line, and in turns, the power seemed easy to tap, with Gushi effortlessly rotating the coupe with the throttle and kicking out the rear in that perfectly controlled way only a skilled drifter can achieve. We also noticed the old 86’s frustrating mid-range torque dip seems to have been smoothed over, with the new engine pulling hard where the previous 2.0-liter engine jogged.

Although we should take his comments with a grain of salt—he was there as a Toyota representative, after all—Gushi gushed about the linearity of the steering and the torsional rigidity of the car’s structure, with the latter said to be 50 percent greater than the outgoing model’s. Gushi said the steering feels even more accurate and balanced; in that previous-gen 86 test, we described its steering as “laser precise,” so we’re looking forward to seeing how the new steering can improve on that. The new, grippier standard tires surely help; the car we rode in wore Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber.

The 2022 GR 86 also boasts improved aerodynamics and air management. The car comes with functional air vents on the front bumper and fenders to help cool the engine better, and there’s a more prominent trunklid spoiler, which Gushi noted as we drifted through the corners.

While our ride was pretty quick, it certainly seems like the 86’s joyous spirit is still alive and, at least according to Gushi, improved. We can’t wait to drive the 2022 Toyota GR 86 sometime in the next couple of months to find out for ourselves. Stay tuned.

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